Coalville boy killed in crash |

Coalville boy killed in crash

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff
Students have left behind items near where 16-year-old Justen Hale was killed in a crash in Peoa last weekend. Photo by Nan Chalat-Noaker/Park Record

A seat belt might have saved the life of North Summit High School student Justen E. Hale, who was killed Sunday when the Ford Explorer he was driving rolled on S.R. 32 near Peoa.

The boy, who was likely speeding and wasn’t buckled up at the time of the crash, died when he was thrown partially through the windshield of the 1994 SUV, investigators say.

"I think in this case [a seat belt] may have made a lot of difference," said Steve Carlsen, superintendent of the North Summit School District. "Please, please, please. Justen would be so happy if they’d all wear their seat belts."

Hale had dropped off a date at her home in Oakley Oct. 1 and was alone in the vehicle when it rolled almost two times on northbound S.R. 32 around midnight, Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jeff Nigbur said.

Investigators were unsure this week why the Explorer drifted right off the roadway but believe Hale overcorrected twice before the vehicle rolled, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

"Whether he was reaching for something, whether it was a deer, they don’t have a clue," Carlsen said. "He probably didn’t suffer from the way it looked."

Alcohol and drugs weren’t suspected as factors and the road was dry at the time of the crash.

At North Summit High, Hale played football and basketball, Carlsen said, adding that it had been almost five years since a student had died during the school year in Coalville.

A white cross, posted this week near the crash site to memorialize Hale, instructed the teenager to "Give ’em Hale in Heaven."

Other items left behind by loved ones included a T-shirt, hat, football, a North Summit Braves megaphone and poster board with messages to Hale from many friends.

"He loved football, loved basketball and number 24 was his," Justen’s father, Eric Hale said Monday. "And he loved to go hunting with me and his little brother and his grandpa."

An 11-year resident of Coalville, Eric Hale praised the tight-knit community in eastern Summit County.

"We have had people streaming in here and that’s exactly what we want," he said. "It’s a great community and he was just such a great kid and it’s neat to see how many lives he really did touch."

Being told last weekend of his son’s death was "numbing," Hale said, adding, "I don’t even know if words can express it."

"We’re hanging in there. Our faith is keeping us together," he said. "He’s in a better place and we will see him again and we’ll always be a family."

Though more than 85 percent of Utah drivers regularly wear seat belts, the Highway Patrol must continually educate students to lower the rate of fatalities, Nigbur said.

"We can only hope that our troopers going out to the high schools does make a difference," he said. "We go through this every year, when, 95 to 99 percent of the time, if you wear your seat belt, you’re going to come out of it."

Administrators discussed Hale’s death Monday with students at North Summit High School, where the boy was a junior, Carlsen said.

"We’re very concerned about the family and the friends of Justen & They’ve cried a lot of tears," the superintendent said Monday. "It’s been a tough day because it pretty much touches most of [the students] in one way or another."

"He was a friendly, outgoing kid, who worked hard and wanted to be as good as he could be," the superintendent said. "He was a bright, bubbly kid who always had a smile."

A funeral for Hale is scheduled Oct. 6 at noon at the Coalville Stake House for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Viewings for Hale are slated to begin at the stake house Oct 5 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 10 a.m.

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